Ultraman is one of the most iconic fictional characters ever created in Japan – but until now the kaiju-fighting superhero was never hugely known to Western audiences.


But with the release of new animated film Ultraman: Rising on Netflix this week, director Shannon Tindle and co-director John Aoshima are hopeful that that's about to change.

Ahead of the new film's launch, the pair – whose previous credits include working on Kubo and the Two Strings – spoke exclusively to RadioTimes.com about making a film that would work both for long-term fans of the franchise and those having their first exposure to the character.

"I mean, we're talking about a character with a multi-generational legacy," Aoshima explained. "And we're big fans too. But we also knew that it would take a lot to kind of establish that world, like, to the point where it's going to serve all the fans.

"But that wasn't the goal of this film: the goal was to tell the beautiful story that Shannon had written and to support it and to... well, basically, we wanted people to come in not having to know anything about Ultraman, just the way we discovered Ultraman as kids."

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Ultraman posing with his arm out in front of him. He is standing in front of a building with an advert of a man holding a baby on it.
Ultraman: Rising. Netflix

Tindle added: "Yeah, when you're a kid, you don't start at episode 1. You just turn it on and it can be episode 8, episode 10, episode 12 – I don't have an origin story for this but it doesn't matter, because I'm engaged by the imagery and I get to know the character.

"So we wanted to echo that experience, too – that joy before you get so obsessed about [it]. The rulemaking in fandom is so toxic, and it's become more so over the years. 'It has to be this way, oh it's not my Star Wars, that's not my Ultraman, etc.' And the thing is, you can tell all kinds of stories in those worlds.

"Now, we did pay tribute to a lot of it. We have a science team in our film, but we subverted it and made them the bad guys. They didn't start that way. There's a history there. And we work back and forth with Tsuburaya on that stuff and they were really amazing collaborating with us. But it really was… if it supports the story we're telling, it gets to stay in. If it's distracting people from it, it's out."

Interestingly the new film didn't begin its life as an Ultraman project. Tindle started writing it as a separate script that was simply inspired by the superhero, because he thought it was unlikely that he'd get the rights to place his film within such a long-running franchise, which began back in 1966 and encompasses TV shows, films, books and a host of other media.

"I was like, 'There's no way I could get Ultraman'," he explained. "And I didn't even know at the time that I came up with the idea, the legal issues that surrounded it and why... there's this dead period where there weren't really any shows made and there was a huge lawsuit. And they didn't come out of the lawsuit until just as I was leaving Sony with what was called Made in Japan at that time."

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He added: "I'd been inspired by Ultraman. And just as I was leaving it they got out of the legal trouble and they're like, 'We're going full barrel, we want Ultraman to be a global character now,' because Takayuki Tsukagoshi, who's the Chairman and CEO, believed it could be.

"And he had worked at Disney before. So he knew about branding and how to get the word out. But also what was really important in all of our conversations was, I don't want this to be a commercial to sell toys, I want to tell a good story. And I had a story that they responded to. And we were allowed to make it."

Ultraman: Rising is streaming on Netflix from Friday 14th June – sign up from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.


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